Covid! It even has made booking a cruise less fun and more difficult! Booking a cruise on one of the wonderful and spectacularly beautiful rivers and bays of the United States is always a thrill. Actually taking it is so much more. And having cruised on both American Queen and American Cruise lines several times on the Mississippi, as well as the Columbia and Snake rivers and going through the Pacific Northwest following the Lewis and Clark trail from the Mississippi west, it seemed like the best way to beat Covid-depression, get away from indoor activities, strengthen my mind and learn something new. It is the best thing to do, I did it. So now I am preparing for another cruise, and I’m working my way through all the changes Covid has meant. Though I’ve visited many historic and entertaining sites, to say nothing of military installations, in both Maryland and Virginia, the states still hold great allure for me and there’s always so much more to learn. So a tour on the Chesapeake Bay of some sites in both states, together with one or two of the islands in the Bay seemed like a great idea. Besides, with the ship leaving Baltimore, it is easily accessible by Amtrak from Metropark and a cab ride to the Four Seasons hotel, the luxurious hotel American Cruise Lines makes accommodations for you for the night before the cruise. BUT Covid has added something to the planning. New regulations. New rules to follow, literally wherever you go. Amtrak’s rules are different from Maryland’s, Maryland’s are different from Virginia’s, and all are different from American Cruise Lines. On the plus side, there’s no doubt absolutely nothing will be crowded, there will not be any long lines to wait in to get into some attractions, and you’re practically positively assured everything everywhere in all your accommodations, both on land and on travel, will be pristine and spotlessly clean. On the ship, with the total number of passengers reduced by 25 per cent, you’re sure to meet everyone with whom you’re cruising someplace along the way. On ships that only accommodate fewer than 200 passengers regularly, that means fewer than 149 others will be on board with me. While I feel certain the employees will also be reduced in keeping with the fewer ship guests, I’m sure there will still be plenty to pamper each customer and fill every need. There will still be all manner of recreation aboard, from music and entertainment to lectures and games. The daily visits to attractions in the ports where the ship docks will continue to be great fun, with perhaps coach transportation instead of busses from pier to sightseeing site, be it the Naval Academy or a museum. Ships already well known for their spectacular meals and overabundance of foods of all kinds won’t change either. Also on the plus side, every state still requires face masks, as do all modes of transportation, so you’re ready and prepared for that. But Covid has made it necessary to learn so much more. Take Amtrak for instance. Besides the mask requirement for every passenger and employee….I must check to see whether the engineer seated by himself in the cab also has to wear one…..Amtrak makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that mask better stay in place both in the station and on the train. They even warn you..the masks better not have any mesh or holes of any kind, they can’t be bandanas and they must cover nose and mouth. To be sure you know they mean business, Amtrak also warns you they’re following federal laws, and violators are subject to penalties, which could include being denied admittance to a train, being removed from a train, and …drum roll here!!! Being banned from future travel! If you already have a reservation, and you exhibit any symptoms, they also suggest you call Julie, their telephone connection, and she will help you cancel your reservation and make another for the future. Amtrak isn’t taking any chances. Then there’s the ship itself! They aren’t requiring customers to have had vaccines, but they are strongly suggesting them. And just saying you have been vaccinated isn’t enough; they will ask for proof such as that little cards that gives the dates and type.m They’re obeying shoreside regulations wherever they go which should be kind of interesting and test their versatility. They’re even having a Medical Officer aboard every ship to ensure testing as you go aboard, and identification of any positivity during the cruise. In fact, the ships all have a few rooms set aside just in case they need one or more for isolation. For those who are not vaccinated, they are required to be tested four days before the beginning of their cruise, and only NAAT or PCR tests will be accepted. Of course the usual pristine accommodations are more so, there will be constant cleaning going on, and plenty of opportunities for hand washing and cleansing. While masks, they say must be worn at all times, I can only hope they’re off for meals. There should not be many changes in visiting the on land sites. Both Maryland and Virginia require masks and the six foot distances, though it’s interesting that Virginia’s regulations call for the outdoor masks only when you cannot keep six feet away from another. In Maryland, all the shops and businesses are open, and the six foot mandate is required. Is it worth it? Of course it is. There’s the comfort of knowing the need to prevent spreading of the disease is important. There’s comfort in seeing how cleanliness is such a vital factor. But there’s a distinct thrill and a quiver of excitement in looking forward to a week or so in a new environment, on a ship that knows how to pamper well, with people who are bound to be happy and eager to share that happiness. I’m looking forward to it. I can hear the laughter in the air already.